Man-Eaters #6 // Review
Maude’s father confronts her before family game night. He knows something’s up. She does too. She can hear her parents fighting as she tries to sleep. Then there’s the physical given to her by the school nurse the next day. All this, a dog food ad, artisanal pencil shops and the true color of cerulean in the latest issue of Chelsea Cain’s Man-Eaters. Kate Niemczyk draws the issue with colors by Rachelle Rosenberg. Further mysteries are revealed in a strange world where puberty makes some women turn into dangerous wild cats. There’s comedy. There’s mystery. There are panels that deliver fictitious internet search results. It’s all quite cunningly put together.
Maude is having issues. The issue opens with a letter written in Courier on letterhead from her middle school warning parents of a menstrual event that happened in a second floor girl’s bathroom a couple of weeks ago. Things get a little weird from there. Maude is wondering whether or not she can trust her father who is wondering whether or not he can trust her. Intrigue comes in the form of colored pencils delivered in the night to the windowsills of Maude and her classmates. Every one is labeled with the wrong color and they all come from the same place.
Cain’s humor is brilliant around the corners of a very emotionally engaging mystery. Both the mystery AND the comedy draw clever statements about contemporary culture, the difficulties of growing-up, parenting and so much more. Cain packs the issue with little bits of the satirical atmosphere. The back cover is an ad for Testro Chow testosterone-infused dog food. At one point we get a Google Maps-style internet search results for an alarming number of artisanal pencil shops in Portland. There’s a full-page Scantron-style “Puberty Observation Form.” She’s able to delivery a profound amount of story in genuinely funny atmospheric details.
Niemczyk keeps the art fresh throughout the issue with thoughtful layouts and carefully-rendered facial expressions. So much of the visual end of the story this issue comes across the faces of Maude and her father. Backgrounds that might otherwise lie relatively flat on the page become rich backdrops. Given the milieu of the comic book it’ll be interesting to see how long Niemczyk can make bedroom and classrooms and things seem visually interesting. With interesting angles, pacing and sudden jumps in pacing, she’s developing a very emotionally rich world for Man-Eaters. As a talented comic book colorist, Rosenberg has a profound grasp of what cerulean looks like. Light and textures gracefully cover the mystery and drama.
As it has a nontraditional mode of delivering quirky humor in narrative, Man-Eaters was going to take a while to develop a narrative rhythm. Now in is sixth issue, the series’ quirky narrative pattern has emerged. It’s enchantingly charming stuff which feels like it’s breathing fresh new life into an art form that’s been around for the better part of a century.